Ice Hockey: ‘I did right allowing Finnerty to join Steelers’, says Coventry coach

Steelers' property: Ryan Finnerty is back with Sheffield thanks to Coventry's kind-hearted coach.
Steelers' property: Ryan Finnerty is back with Sheffield thanks to Coventry's kind-hearted coach.

RIVAL coach Paul Thompson says he did the honourable thing in permitting Sheffield Steelers to recruit Ryan Finnerty - even though he’d signed him first, writes Bob Westerdale.

Thompson is Steelers’ unlikely Fairy Godmother as Finnerty - now installed as Sheffield player-coach - originally signed for Thompson’s Coventry Blaze three weeks ago.

The Blaze and Great Britain coach said: “I could have dug my heels in for a bit but this was an amazing opportunity for Ryan. I’d never hold a player back in those circumstances. It’s a pity, as he is the type of player we need - gritty, with leadership skills. But I told him I wouldn’t stand in his way.”

Thompson doesn’t know what sort of a coach the Canadian will make: “He’ll probably want a team mirroring his personality, a little bit ‘chippy’ and very committed. Sheffield have just won the league so he’ll not want to tinker too much.”

Finnerty has said he wants an infusion of young blood. And Thompson said: “It was an ageing team yet, on the other hand, it was a very experienced group. But Ryan will do well, hopefully. If he does too well, I’ve still got his signed contract in my pocket!”

Meanwhile, Coach’s Player of the Year (2010-11) Jason Hewitt has committed to his sixth season for Steelers.

Hewitt had his best year last season, scoring 17+47 points.

“Losing Hewitt was never an option” said head coach Finnerty.

“He is our heartbeat and I think we are his too so it’s a good marriage.

“Hewey is getting better every year and that will continue. He plays many different roles. A few years ago he was a third-line grinder but now he has added goals. He is a key face-off man and one of the game’s best penalty-killers. He is also one of the most annoying players to play against.”

Hewitt, who flies to Latvia on Friday as part of the GB side playing in the World Championships, said: “I’m looking forward to working with Finner. We are great mates, it will be interesting how that works out when he is the boss but he is someone I respect greatly.”